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Uphaar tragedy: Age, Ansals and gift from judiciary

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By Ridham Gambhir

Getting old is an unavoidable facet. The same became more of an advantage than a liability when the Ansal brothers got released from their sentenced punishment because of their “old age”.

Sushil Ansal (75) and Gopal Ansal (67) were granted bail on Friday when the Supreme Court said that Sushil is “fairly aged” and his younger brother deserves “parity” with him and that it was not “fruitful” for them to undergo rigorous punishment.

UphaarFire_reutersOn June 13, 1997, 59 people died and over 100 were injured when a fire broke out at Uphaar Cinema, New Delhi during the screening of Border.

A probe into the incident revealed several regulatory violations such as- no functional public announcement system, no emergency lights, foot lights, or exit lights; and blocked gateways (due to unauthorized seating arrangement installed by the theatre authorities).

Ansal brothers alone can’t be held responsible for this fiasco. The fire broke out due to faulty wiring in the transformer that was installed by Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB) in the cinema hall.

“The cause of death was suffocation due to the fire and the Ansal Brothers can’t be blamed for that,”  argued Ram Jethmalani , lawyer for the estate barons in 2008 hearing in HC.

If old age is being taken into consideration while releasing the Ansal brothers, then what about Om Prakash Chautala (80) and Subroto Roy (67)? Both of these men are in jail for committing financial crimes, yet they haven’t been released till now considering their “old age”.

As per the data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), more than 87,000 people, 60 and above, were arrested under the Indian Penal Code and Special Local Law crimes in 2014. In 2013, around 53,000 people in the age group 50 and above were put behind bars.

346219-uphaar

The victims of this horrible accident united under the banner name of the ‘Association of Victims of Uphaar Fire Tragedy’ (AVUT), which won ₹25 crore as a compensation for their dead relatives. However, Supreme Court, on 13 October 2011, nearly halved the sum of compensation awarded to them by the Delhi High Court.

The fire broke out 18 years back, when Sushil Ansal was 57 years old and Gopal Ansal was 49. Our judicial system didn’t give them an ‘appropriate punishment’ at that time, and now it is ‘replacing’ their punishment by a means of monetary compensation. Have the brothers grown too old or has our law enforcement got too weak?

If the Ansal brothers are too old to deal with the punishment given to them. then think about the families of those 59 who have grown old in the memory of their loved ones.

The tragedy took place a long time back, but it’s wounds are still fresh. And those who gave these wounds have grown “too old” to suffer their wrongdoings! Is this is uphaar (gift) from our judiciary to these brothers?

 

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Crimes Against Women Perpetrate in Every two Minutes: NCRB Analysis

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Crimes against women in India
Father, left and mother, center of the Indian student victim who was fatally gang raped on this day three years back on a moving bus in the Indian capital join others at a candle lit vigil in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. VOA
  • Any kind of physical or mental harm towards women is deemed as  “crime against women”
  • Domestic violence is the most dominant crime against women
  • Andhra Pradesh state is the highest to report crimes against women in the period of ten years

Sep 20, 2017: A report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests that crimes against women have increased violently in the last ten years with an estimated figure of  2.24 million crimes. The figure is also suggestive of the fact: 26 crimes against women are reported every hour, or one complaint every two minutes, reports IndiaSpend analysis.

The most dominant crime against women with 909,713 cases reported in last decade was ‘cruelty by husbands and relatives’ under section 498‐A of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

‘Assault on women’ booked under section 354 of IPC is the second-most-reported crime against women with 470,556 crimes.

‘Kidnapping and abduction of women’ are the third-most-reported crime with 315,074 crimes, followed by ‘rape’ (243,051), ‘insult to modesty of women’ (104,151) and ‘dowry death’ (80,833).

The NCRB report also listed three heads, namely commit rape (4,234), abetment of suicide of women (3,734) and protection of women from domestic violence (426) under which cases of crime against women have been reported in 2014.

Andhra Pradesh has reported the most crimes against women (263,839) over the past 10 years.

Andhra Pradesh state is the highest (263,839) to report crimes against women in the period of ten years. Crimes reported for insult (35,733) ranks first followed by cruelty by husband relatives (117,458), assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (51,376) and dowry-related deaths (5,364).

West Bengal (239,760) is second most crime against women state followed by Uttar Pradesh (236,456), Rajasthan (188,928) and Madhya Pradesh (175,593).

Abduction increased up to three folds over the recent years,  with Uttar Pradesh being the worst affected state. Cases rose from 15,750 cases in 2005 to 57,311 cases in 2014.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

 

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What Gives Husbands The Licence to Rape? Decoding Marital Rape in the Indian Legal Scenario

Can there be two different definitions of rape? Can there be a differentiation between the rape of a married woman and the rape of an unmarried woman?

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Marital rape
While most of the developed world has penalized marital rape, surprisingly it is yet to be categorized as an offence in India. Pixabay
  • Cases of sexual violence, including rape, fall within the larger realm of domestic violence
  • Marital rape is yet to be categorized as a criminal offence in India
  • According to the central government, criminalizing marital rape “may destabilize the institution of marriage”

New Delhi, September 2, 2017 : Baby works as a domestic help; she says she cannot recall her age when her parents married her off to a man who was much older to her; a man she barely knew. She didn’t anticipate her husband would demand to have intercourse on their wedding night. She was still young and not ready, but that didn’t stop him. Baby was raped by her husband on her wedding night. But marital rape means nothing to her.

Sunita irons clothes for a living. She says has been married for more years than she can remember. The duo has four kids together, but that doesn’t stop her husband from raising a hand or two on her, every once in a while. Every night, her husband would get drunk, hit her and forcefully demand to have sex, paying no heed to her resistance. Sunita has three daughters, and a son, and the husband still wants to have progenies. “I told my mother that this man has raped me multiple times. She protested, arguing that he is ‘your husband’ after all,” she said.

But did she never decide to approach the authorities?

To this, Sunita promptly replied, “I once had a sore eye after he (the husband) hit me with his shoe when I refused to have sex. I went to the local hospital and then the police. I narrated the entire scene; they were very considerate, offered me water and then asked me to go home and ‘adjust’.”

Sunita is unaware of a term called ‘marital rape’.

This is the reality of a huge part of the society in real India.

Like Baby and Sunita, women who suffer such indignities are often asked to “adjust” with perpetrators of violence because of a deep –embedded fear of what the society would say. This notion of an ‘ideal woman’ impedes women to object to illicit treatment meted out by their ‘better halves’.

The debate around the issue has become ripe once again with the Central Government stating that what “may appear to be marital rape” to a wife “may not appear so to others”. In an affidavit to the Delhi High Court, the central government took a stand against criminalizing marital rape saying that it “may destabilize the institution of marriage” and also become easy tool for harass the husbands and the in-laws.

Rape v/s Marital Rape

Rape is defined in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, but with an irregularity: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”

While rape is addressed as perforation without a woman’s accord in its main clause, the only remedy to forced intercourse provided to ‘married’ woman is specified under Section 498-A of the IPC and the civil provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestiic Violence Act.

Following the horrific 2012 Nirbhaya rape case that brought the entire world to a standstill, the Indian media has given paramount coverage to instances of rape across the country. But even after 5 years of the gut-wrenching incident, there seems no end to this crime.

ALSO READ The Hardships of Sexuality: Marital rape, violence and humiliation

Cases of sexual violence, including rape, fall within the larger realm of domestic violence. However, rape by husbands within holy matrimony continues to remain an obscure subject in India and the exact number of cases is hard to gauge.

According to a 2015 report by National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) tracing the proximity of offenders to the victims of sexual violence, it was revealed that in 95 per cent of all rapes, the offenders were familiar to the survivors. These, presumably include acquaintances, friends, relatives and colleagues.

And what about rape committed by husbands?

These cases continue to be an under-reported crime in India. This can be attributed to two major reasons,

  • Because of the stigma associated with it
  • Because of the presence of a defunct justice system

Furthermore, more often than not, these cases go missing because of several additional (and unnecessary) barriers stemming from a combination of familial and/or social power structures, shame and dependency.

Marital Rape In India

While most of the developed world has penalized marital rape, surprisingly it is yet to be categorized as an offence in India.

A United Nations’ report titled ‘Why do some men use violence against women and how can we prevent it?’ published in 2013 disclosed that nearly a quarter of 10,000 men  in Asia-Pacific region, including India, admitted to have indulged in the rape of a female partner. The report traced their rationale to a deep-embedded belief that they are entitled to sex despite the consent of their partners.

The study also revealed that the majority of these instances were not reported and the perpetrators faced no legal consequences.

In 2014, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in association with International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) brought out a report titled ‘Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India’. Among other things, the report analyzed the average Indian male’s understanding and interpretation of the idea of ‘masculinity’ and how that molds their interactions with women.

Not surprisingly, the study revealed that a typical man in the Indian society associated the attributes ‘tough’, and ‘controlling’ with masculinity.

Segments of the present day Indian society continue to look at men as tough forces, who can (must) freely exercise their privilege to establish rule in personal relationships and above all, continue to control women.

Additionally, the study also revealed that 60 per cent of the Indian men disclosed the use of physical violence to establish authority.

In India, stiff patriarchal norms continue to tilt the gender balance firmly in the favor of men, as a result of which, women are forced to internalize male dominance in their lives.

Marital Rape in India : A Legal Perspective

Section 375 essentially distinguishes between two categories of women

  • Married women
  • Unmarried women

Much to the Indian society’s disappointment, the Indian legal system denies protection from rape to the married woman. This creates discrimination as the women belonging to one section are denied justice merely by virtue of being married.

But can there be two different definitions of rape? Can there be a differentiation between the rape of a married woman and the rape of an unmarried woman? Is it justified to discriminate a woman just because she is married to the man who has raped her?

The Debate Around Marital Rape In India

Despite the piquant situation, the issue raised furor when Minister of State for Home, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary told the Parliament that the question of criminalizing marital rape in India has no relevance “as marriage is treated as sacred here.”

Does marriage being a sacrament provide one with the legal right to rape a woman?

South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly had retaliated saying that it is particularly concerning when a government that claims to secure the safety of women inside and outside national territory shamelessly turn to justify a crime in the name of culture and tradition.

Group director of social and economic development at the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) Priya Nanda asserted in an interview with a leading portal that “the reason men don’t want to criminalize marital rape is because they don’t want to give a woman the power to say no.”

In 2013, a three-member commission headed by Justice J.S. Verma suggested remedial measures to combat sexual violence in India, following the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case. One of its recommendations was the criminalization of marital rape.

ALSO READ Reasons Why Marital Rape Should Be Recognised as a Criminal Offence

The recommendation was ignored by the government as a large amount of people questioned its efficiency saying if made a crime,

  • It might be misused by people
  • It will be difficult to prove
  • It might break up marriages

But, how fair is it to not have a law against marital rape, only because of the reason that it is ‘difficult to prove’?

In a broader understanding, it needs to be understood that the criminalization of marital rape must not be viewed as a step against men or the institution of matrimony, but as an attempt to demolish the patriarchal system that continues to clutch the Indian society.


 

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Bengali Film ‘Dhananjoy’ Sparks a Fresh Debate on the Social Dilemma of Capital Punishment

Arindam Sil's 'Dhananjoy' revolves around the capital punishment of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a security guard

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Death Penalty
Arindam Sil's Bengali film 'Dhananjoy. Facebook
  • ‘Dhananjoy’ is a Bengali film directed by Arindam Sil
  • The film premiered theatres on August 11, 2017
  • Talking about capital punishments and death penalty, the movie has sparked a new debate on the social issue

August 19, 2017: Arindam Sil’s new direction, titled ‘Dhananjoy’ hit the screens on 11th August. The Bengali film since its release has sparked a fresh debate on the social dilemma of capital punishment.

Capital punishment by no means is a simple debate topic. The United Nations Organization has passed various resolutions urging governments of various nations to abolish the legality of the death penalty, however, these resolutions have been non-binding.

Also Read: Why the society needs capital punishment

There are 56 nations that hold death penalty legal. In fact, 60% of the global population resides in countries where the death penalty is held valid. Some of these nations are India, US, China, Indonesia among more.

Arindam Sil’s ‘Dhananjoy’ revolves around the capital punishment of Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a security guard. The film comes at the time of the 13th anniversary of his hanging.

Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed by the state on 14th August 2004 for the rape and murder of a young girl, Hetal Parekh, in a residential complex. Aged 39, Dhananjoy was mercilessly punished leaving behind old parents, a wife and a brother.

The Bengali film has run along the lines of the 2016 published book, ‘Adalat-Media-Samaj Ebong Dhananjoyer Fansi’. The book portrays that Dhananjoy may have been wrongly committed the crimes he did not do. It was Hetal’s mother who was the culprit and got away. Dhananjoy was a scapegoat.

Sil shows in the movie that it was unfair for Dhananjoy if the judiciary or police in any way would have caused an unintentional error. Dhanonjoy spent 14 years in the prison, during which he kept claiming that he was innocent. He also kept saying that he was tired of being poor. Dhananjoy had little money, and his poverty was the reason behind him being put as the scapegoat. His lawyers with the little fees had lost interest in the case.

This theory by Sil clearly raised debates regarding the fairness of capital punishment and death penalty. The film Dhananjoy is sure to raise dinner table debates with family after watching the movie.

William Douglas, American Supreme Court Judge, once said: “Capital Punishment was for those without the capital.”

The United Nations conducted a survey in the year 1988. From the responses, they concluded that the fact “death penalty is more of a deterrent than life imprisonment” is absolutely baseless. Furthermore, the statistics extracted from countries who abolished the practice supports the conclusion of the survey.

If capital punishment is not abolished, the risk that an innocent could be hanged and killed lurks in the environment. Judiciary systems are not perfect systems.

In India, the judiciary is in worse conditions. With the lack of personnel, pending cases and archaic laws coupled with caste and communal hierarchic setup, capital punishment should be much researched in the country.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.